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Thursday, February 21, 2019

How I Manage My Anxiety When Investing

Do you suffer from anxiety?  I do.  I've had anxiety as long as I can remember.  It was especially frustrating during my high school days as a track and field athlete.  Workouts worried me.  Meet days gave me irritable bowel.  My coach always wondered where I was right before a race.  "I was in the bathroom, coach!" I'd tell him.

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I wasn't diagnosed until 28 years of age.  A lot of it was cultural.  As a Mexican youth living through the 1980's, we didn't talk about mental health in my family.  I don't recall any of our Mexican friends mentioning psychological problems either; they mostly used the word, "loco," to describe a person not right in the head.

I started my life as an investor, per se, sometime after my initial meetings with my psychiatrist. I started taking medication, and it literally transformed me into a new man.  That's not to say that it cured me.  You can never be cured of anxiety.  You can only learn to manage it.  Aside from medication, I manage my anxiety in a whole host of ways.  For example, I cut back on coffee.  Exercise was, and still is my go-to strategy.  I learned breathing techniques at a Kaiser class in my thirties.

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What's this all have to do with investing, you may be wondering by now?  Well, I'm willing to bet that a lot of you, if you suffer from anxiety, are probably letting both fear of losing money AND anxiety derail your investing.  The fear of losing money is very intense for some people.  Add anxiety into the mix and you can just about forget anyone taking on any risk.  So let me share with you how I deal with my anxiety while investing.

First, I use knowledge to lessen the anxiety.  The more I can read about an investment, the better I feel overall.  Investing in the stock market can be damn near impossible for many people with phobias, and anxiety.  But reading over 50 books on stock market investing made me overcome my anxious episodes.  The old adage, "stick to what you know," is true here.  But so is staying informed.  If you don't have time to stay informed, and use knowledge to calm you down, I suggest you invest in low-cost mutual funds and let a professional manage your money.  

I also buy "packaged" investments.  What are these?  These are investments that have had the risk in them mitigated.  For instance, I buy out-of-state rental properties from turn-key companies. They've taken on the risk of buying the property, and rehabbing it.  They also rent it out and have a management company.  These companies sometimes offer rent guarantees for a whole year!  They also give you a warranty on anything in the house that breaks.  In contrast, if you were to be an active real estate investor, you'd find the property yourself, buy it at a discount hopefully, and flip it yourself, or keep it as a rental.

These aren't the only types of packaged investments.  You can now participate in crowdfunding, where you take on risk with many more people.  I invested in a non-traded public Real Estate Investment Trust, offering quarterly dividends at 7.5% via crowdfunding.  Sure, we can all be wrong, but at least we have the means to communicate with each other by attending things like the Annual Investors Meeting.

Social Media has given me the ability to find people participating in an investment and glean firsthand information about an investment.  I can always message someone and get their review of a company, investment opportunity, etc.  In fact, I've had multiple people Facebook Messenger me about the non-traded REIT I invested in.  I'm happy to let them know exactly how I feel.  Of course there are also Google reviews on almost anyone or anything.

Finally, I hang around other investors, and communicate with them daily.  They have made investing a normal part of their lives, and so have I.  If you have no one to assure you, how are you supposed to get in on something?  You need like-minded people who can share their highs and lows with you.  This will transform the process of investing into a furry little kitty cat, instead of the monster your brain believes it is.

Thanks for reading!  Until next time.  


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Why Now Is A Great Time To Refinance Your Best Rental Property (Or Your Own Residence)

It's President's Day 2019 weekend and I got Benjamins on my mind!  Cuz it's all about the Benjamins, yo!  Okay, enough colloquialities up in here.  LOL!  Had to squeeze one more in.
Image result for Benjamins

So, (clearing my throat), I recently refinanced my best rental and I got $26K coming my way next week!  We had a great time sitting with Wendy Souza, notary public out of Mission Viejo, last Thursday to get our closing docs all done.  Wendy, Jessica, and I discussed topics such as life after divorce, romance, dancing, cooking, kids, all while signing and dating like 100 pages of dry and boring, real estate legal docs.  I wanted to give Wendy a shout-out because she was extremely personable...and I like helping people!

Back to the topic of this article though.  So, refinancing my best rental was a process I began last year in November.  The timing was perfect.  Let me explain some things first.  What do I mean by, "your best rental property"?  Well, if you have multiple rentals in your portfolio, this means look for the one that has appreciated the most AND, and I stress, AND, the one who also has the most cashflow.  This means that when all expenses are factored (taxes, insurance, maintenance, property management, etc.) you have a nice monthly payment coming into your investment checking account.  

Appreciation is key, however.  Remember that the best you'll get on a refinance is between 60-75% LTV (Loan-to-Value) from a bank.  Example:  If your rental can appraise for $150K, you'll get a new loan for up to $112,500, using 75% LTV.  So if you owe, say, $65K on the property after paying down the mortgage...correction...after your tenant(s) have paid down the mortgage...hehehe! Then you can expect to get a cash-out check in the amount of about $44,000 because you'll have some closing costs.  Also, you have to decide based on your numbers, whether or not you want all this cash, and not a lesser amount.

Why a lesser amount?  Well, consider that when you refinance your rental, the new loan will include a higher mortgage payment. Taxes and insurance should stay around the same, unless you upgrade your insurance premium to account for the new appraised value.  All this means that the rental will have less cashflow.  That's why I suggested above that you select the rental with the best cashflow.  So that you can pull as much cash out on the refinance AND still cashflow on that rental each month (albeit, a lot less).

Let me give you some rough numbers (although I did calculate the scenario to its entirety for my situation, just don't have the exact number here for you).  So for my best rental refinance, I'll be cashing out $26K.  At first, my lender (Wells Fargo agent, Dusty Carrol out of Oceanside) thought my rental could appraise for $150K.  The appraisal process is independently done by an appraiser and you have no say as to what you think the property is worth.  They do their thing, and report back to the lender when done.  Our rental came in below $150.  It was somewhere in the high $130K's or maybe even $140K. Can't recall right now.  The point is, this determined my cash out amount, and my subsequent mortgage payment at the investor rate interest I locked in (6.5%).

My new payment including mortgage, taxes, and insurance is $911.  My rental is rented for $1250/month.  I pay $125 to property management company.  This leaves me with $214 cashflow.  However, I also pay $26 HOA dues per month or $315 annually.  Now I'm at $188.  $188 doesn't factor in any maintenance issues that can arise.  These are rare right now as my property in Cordova, TN is fairly new (this century) and flipped in 2010.  However, if an issue arises, it's coming out of that $188 cashflow, and my reserves.  So you can see, pulling equity significantly reduced my cashflow position on this rental.  And if I were to simply go out and spend all that money on stupid things, like a new car, a home makeover, a family vacation, etc...things that are not going to give me a return on my money, then this is a waste of a refinance.

But I'm not!  Duh!  I plan on utilizing this cash windfall to buy, you guessed it...another out-of-state rental property!  I already have lined up the turn-key wholesale company that I'll be working with.  In fact, I'm on their waiting list for a new property in August of this year.  Yes, waiting list.  You see, they have so many out-of-state investors from New York and California, that they need to put us all on a 6 month waiting list.  According to their multiple sales examples, my new rental will average between $325-$375 cashflow per month.  It will cost me between $55K to $80K, depending on how I shop for their available inventory when I get called on.  Thus, this new rental will more than replace the cashflow I lost from refinancing, and then some.  I'll be adding to my portfolio, meaning adding to my asset column, and improving my cashflow per month!  Win, win.

Why Refinance Now?

According to what I've been reading lately, home price appreciation is stalling.  They're no longer appreciating as quickly, if at all in some markets.  Google it if you don't trust me.  Anyway, it's likely your rental property(ies) are due for some refinancing consideration.  After all, mortgage rates too have stopped rising thanks to the Fed slowing their roll.  Investors have to pay investor rates, but they're still quite low.  I got a 6.5% rate in January.  You may be able to lock in a lower one.

Image result for home prices no longer rising 2019

Cash is king right now.  Not because you'll get higher interest rates for stashing your cash away in a Money Market account and forgetting about it.  Inflation is on the rise, especially for goods.  Rather, cash is king because of the impending recession!  Yes, it's bound to happen sooner or later.  You'll want to have cash on hand to scoop up assets at discount levels after the fallout settles.

If property values stall, or even fall, you may be able to buy your next rental at a better price!  And, if rates are kept the same by a Fed that doesn't know how to proceed...heck, they may even decide to cut rates if a recession happens this year, you may be in store for even better rates on your investor purchase.

Should I Refinance My Personal Residence?

Yes, if you are disciplined enough to not fall for the trap that is home improvement.  Home improvements will make no difference to your monthly cashflow (how much you keep at the end of each month).  You can pay down your high interest credit cards so you have more money available to you at the end of each month.

Or, if you don't have credit card debt, put your refinance cash into buying your first rental property!  Or your next one.  Anything that puts money in your pocket at the end of the month works.  Just please don't go on a vacation, or buy a new car.  Don't do anything with that money that will entrench you even more in the Rat Race that is your life already.

With that, I say, adieu mes amis.  Hasta la proxima.  Holla back!     

Friday, January 4, 2019

Time To Review Your Car Insurance Policy Or You'll Be Sorry!

One of the most ignored expenses is car insurance.  I mean, who wants to bother looking over the renewal packet you get in the mail every 6 months or so?  They're long, boring, and state the same thing (in terms of your coverage) they did the last time you got one in the mail.  Up until a few days ago, I simply looked for the latest insurance card for my vehicle, pulled it out from the perforated portion of the sheet, and dropped it inside my car's glove compartment.  Done!  On to driving another year and paying my premium on automatic deduction from my checking account.

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Last November, my wife, Jessica, was rear-ended.  She texted me to tell me she was okay, but the rear bumper on her Lexus was warped and scratched up.  Well, turns out she got some whiplash, and has had to go to the chiropractor for her neck and upper back.  She was not at fault so we assumed things would go smoothly come time to get the Lexus fixed.  The person who was at fault for the accident had really bad insurance.  Anchor General...look at their reviews.  You better hope no one driving with this insurance ever wrecks your car!  But I digress.

We got tired of dealing with the claim directly with A.G. (we were being cheap and didn't want to pay the deductible of $500 with our insurer) so we let Allstate take over.  Our Lexus is in the shop and should be repaired by next week.  When will we get our deductible refunded?  Who knows?  These things drag on, especially when dealing with not so reputable car insurance companies.  My wife is also seeing a lawyer about her chiropractic expenses.

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Now, you'd think that an accident, whether or not you were at fault, would be a good time to review your car insurance policy.  Mainly to see if you are under-insured.  But oh no...not for me.  I'm a dunce!  I went about my business as usual.  This week, my little sister visited from San Diego.  She lives with her boyfriend and is a recent graduate of SDSU.  She's a waitress, and has been trying for over a year to get admitted to a Physical Therapy program.  While visiting, she shared that she'd been admitted to a PT program in Oakland, CA.  It's pricey.  She already owes like $30K for her bachelor's degree.

It's her dream to become a PT so I made sure to counsel her on how to approach paying (and going into more debt) for her future studies.  But then she divulged that she was being sued!  I'm like...whaaaaat?!  She explained that over 8 months ago, she made a left turn into an empty parking spot and hit a car that was oncoming.  The driver, according to her, was not hurt, and was seemingly in good spirits after the accident.  No harm, no foul, right?  Wrong!

Recently, she received a summons to appear in court in April of this year.  Her insurer, Allstate, has informed her that the other side is asking for $50K in medical damages.  One huge problem...my little sister is only insured for $25K; this is the minimum a driver must have for liability coverage in CA.  Allstate has offered her legal help, because they're a great insurer.  I told her that chances are the case will be settled out of court.  But my little sister is obviously struggling with this.  She feels like her dream of going to a PT program is in jeopardy.  And she doesn't have any money.  Like most Millennials, she's got school debt she hasn't even started paying back yet!  I felt really bad for her.

This is when I got to thinking.  Holy shish...what's my coverage?  Unlike my little sister, I have assets to lose should I cause a serious accident.  I called my Allstate agent in Carlsbad, CA, and sure enough, I too only had $25K coverage (one person bodily injury)!  Folks, you get charged more than this for a simple test done at an emergency room.  $25K is nothing these days.  Imagine if you cause damage to more than one vehicle, or heaven forbid, you should seriously injure someone?  You're SOOOOO S.O.L!

I got on it quick.  I asked my agent to up my coverage to $100K per person bodily injury.  My deductible didn't change.  My premium went up by a mere $84 a term of six months.  I don't know what I was thinking driving around with the minimum liability coverage and I dare say I dodged a big one.  Now I ask...what kind of car insurance coverage are you driving around with?  If you're young, don't put your future at risk.  Everyone else, don't put your assets or income at risk.  Insure yourself as high as you can afford.  Peace of mind is priceless!   

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Instead of Paying for Your Child's College, Get Them This!

Many financially savvy parents know that by paying for their child's college education they will be giving their offspring a huge leg up on their future.  Without crippling college debt, their kid(s) will be able to possibly afford a home, get married, and start a family.  The incentive to bust your butt to save for your child's college expenses is there, and the only thing keeping most people from doing more of it is the need to also save for retirement.

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But let's put the retirement problem aside.  Let's pretend you don't have this problem and can indeed save for your child's college expenses without sacrificing retirement savings.  I'm here to tell you that even though you may be doing a noble, caring, parenting act, it's now a wrong financial move.  Saving for your child's college education is a losing endeavor.  Here are three reasons why:

1) A moving target.  College expenses go up every year.  You'll never save enough.  You better be wealthy!  

2)  Your child will want to go to grad school.  Many students need advanced degrees (Masters or Ph.D's) to compete in their field with the thousands of other kids out there trying to do the same thing.  This means that your child will need more of your money, OR they will use student loans to pay for their grad school education, getting in debt anyways.

3)  Your child will major in something that isn't easily employable.  Sure, they won't have any college debt, but they'll have a low-paying job, nothing to do with their major/degree.

The Traditional Path Leads to Financial Struggle

When your child leaves college, in debt or not, they'll start buying liabilities.  The first liability they'll own is their car.  But they won't stop there.  They'll get a pet, dog or cat.  Then they'll want to buy a house with their partner.  Their starter home will become their biggest liability, draining them of cash every month.  Yes, your home is not an asset!  In effect, your kid will end up in the rat race...all because they don't own any assets...like most Americans.

What should they do?

They should start out at a Junior college.  Have a part-time job while attending and live at home.  They should take public transportation if you can't pay for their car insurance, gas, and maintenance.  After they get their A.A. degree or skills certificate, they should take a year off from school...but not to slack off!!

Instead they need to double time their work load.  Two part-time jobs or one full-time job if they got a skill.  Live with parents.  Save as much money as possible.  Then they can go back and finish their degree.  They may have to take out some college loans but it won't be as bad since they completed two years at a community college and they saved a bunch of money during that year off to pay for their university expenses, i.e., to complete their degree.

What should you do?

Use the money you saved for your child's college education to buy your child their very first asset!  Buy them an out-of-state (or in state if you live in an affordable area) rental property and put it in their name.  Make sure it is set-up so your son/daughter understands their role in making it provide positive cashflow in their real estate bank account every month.  Your child can claim the property as an investment, rental, on their tax return and after a couple of years, have a track record as an investor for future banking purposes!  

Imagine your child having income coming in from their salary job, AND from a rental property each month.  That's a great start to a life of accumulating wealth.

If all of this doesn't make any sense, watch the video below:

Friday, December 14, 2018

11 Financial Mistakes Teenagers Make

Helping teens is my thing.  And man do teens need help these days.  There are just so many more ways teens can stray, and shoot their future in the foot.  Take the case of this year's Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray.  Within hours of receiving the most coveted award in all of college football, people were blasting him on Twitter for having homophobic tweets in his history.  Tweets he made when he was a teenager!  That's the world we live in...a place where haters are going to find a way to dim or completely turn off your spotlight.  But I digress...

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Anyway, like I said above, teens these days need lots of help, and not just with their character and morals.  But also very much so with their financial habits.  While I do my best to make money matters interesting to this breed of teen at my YouTube channel, sadly, most of them would rather watch their favorite Vlogger do something crazy or idiotic.  So although I realize that many of you are adults, some of you may have greater influence with a teen than I do as a teacher.

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Using compiled responses from some of my students, I've created a list of the ways teens misuse money.  These are, for many, bad habits that they need to break now if they're to avoid being a statistic, namely, just another member of the Have-nots.  Here they are in no particular order:

1)  Having a baby.  This is like a financial deathblow in the teenage years, especially if the teens involved belong to low-income families.

2)  Losing high school textbooks.  This will result in fines students have to pay before they're given their high school diploma.

3)  Buying and consuming illegal drugs regularly.  Wrong on so many levels...

4)  Buying an expensive and relatively new car.  This is a dream for many high school students, but because parents defray the costs of car ownership in many cases (paying for insurance, e.g.) teens don't fully grasp how expensive it truly is (loan, depreciation, etc.) to buy a new car.

5)  Upgrading a car.  Teens, especially the boys, love state of the art sound systems, carbon rims, racing mufflers, and so on.  Useless additions that only take money away from savings.

6)  Buying vapes or cigarettes.  Teens get hooked on these and getting them to stop is dang near impossible.  This becomes an expense many of them carry over into their 20s.

7)  Spending on online gaming.  In addition to the game consoles, individual games, and accessories teens want their parents to buy for them, now teens are asking mom and dad for credit cards to pay for gaming coins, and in-game purchases.

8)  Trying to impress a date with an expensive gift or outing.  The same can be said of teens in serious relationships.

9)  The senior prom becomes an event that seriously places families in a financial crisis.  Teens are spending way too much on a formality that is forgotten over time.  I barely remember my senior prom!

10)  Spending on fast food meals daily.  Some high schoolers are allowed to leave campus for lunch.  Others go straight to the nearest fast food joint right after school.  All the same.  The result is more unnecessary spending.

11) . Clothing, shoes, and other attire.  Teens are working after-school part-time and spending their money on clothing they don't need.  Why?  To look good at school, of course.

Well, I'm sure teens are finding even more creative ways to spend their money, and we as older people haven't yet caught on to their trends.  Main point is to help teens understand that their spending habits carry over to their adult years and effectively lead them into the Rat Race, or worse, homelessness.  Thanks for reading!

If your teen doesn't like reading, send them my way:
Video: 11 Financial Mistakers Teens Make!


Thursday, November 1, 2018

Why I Left A T & T After 7 Years

My cell phone carrier experience goes back to the very first cell phones.  I'm that old.  The year was 2001.  I'd just graduated from the UCSB Graduate School of Education and decided to start my career as a teacher in the heart of East Side San Jose.  I got me a wireless Motorola or something and thought they were so cool.  When the smart phones came along I was not quick to change.  I kept my traditional text and call phone until the Blackberry went out of style.

I purchased my first smart phone, an iPhone 4, in 2011 I think, going with AT & T as my carrier.  After sometime, I even decided to "bundle" my Internet and cable with them.  I thought highly of their service, except their fees always irked me.  The Internet was slow, and to level up cost a lot of money.  I remained loyal for as long as possible, but like most people, I cut the cord.  That was my first severance experience with A T & T.  Sling TV was so much more affordable and it had all the channels I needed.

The Internet was next.  At 18 mbps, my Internet was too slow to stream HD content.  I hated how my shows, like Game of Thrones on HBO, would freeze right in the middle of a good part.  I'd purchased a streaming android box, and my brother-in-law loaded it with Kodi and other apps.  So I had managed to layer my Sling TV online content with streaming on the "Kodi Box," as I called it.

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About two months ago, my wife, Jessica, took on the Internet situation.  After talking with A T and T, she decided we could do better.  She signed us up for Cox Internet 100 mbps.  Man is it fast!  The cost, after the activation fee of $75, was only $70 per month!  That was only a bit more than I was paying for the A T & T 18 mbps program.  The full power of my iPhone 6 was essentially released.  With faster Internet, I could now stream sports and shows live on my phone without hiccups.  My data plan with A T & T was 500 MB.  I always used less than this, mostly because I wasn't streaming sports AND I always used free WiFi.

Then something strange happened.  I was at McDonald's using their free WiFi.  When I left I noticed I had two text messages from A T & T Alerts.  One stated I had consumed 75% of my data and would be charged $20 automatically if I went over.  The second text, only a minute later, stated I had consumed 100% of my data and I would be charged $20 for another 500 MB.  First, I didn't like the fact that A T & T charged this fee assuming I'd want another 500 MB.  In all honesty, I'd prefer to go without data until the month renewed my plan's allocation.  Second, because they came so fast, I didn't have time to adjust my usage, meaning get off the Internet.

I thought for sure I'd simply used too much data for the month.  My bad, right?  The next day, I was at home, streaming an NBA game.  I was using my own home's WiFi so I figured I was safe from overusing my data.  I was wrong.  It happened again!  Somehow I'd managed to use 500 MB of data in one day!  What the heck, I thought.  I didn't like being charged another $20.  So I called A T & T and asked why this had happened.  That is when I learned a valuable lesson.


You are using carrier data anytime your phone has its "Cellular Data" button turned on.  On the iPhone, you have to go to Settings, Cellular, and Cellular Data, to manually turn it off.  Even while using someone else's WiFi!  All this time, I assumed...again because I'd hardly ever gone over, that anytime I connected to free WiFi, I wasn't using my own data.  Boy was I wrong.  Had I not called A T & T and got the full scoop, I'd never have known that you have to manually turn off "cellular data" every time you went online and were in a free (or your own) WiFi venue.  I talked with a friend who works an Internet business and is an iPhone 10 user, and he too wan't aware of this.  He said, "I thought that (WiFi taking the place of carrier data) was the default."

Image result for cellular data

I went back to old A T & T emails, those telling me of an overage fee, and noticed a link at the bottom.  The link when clicked, takes you to a page that, if you read it all, lets you know that cellular data is always being used unless you turn it off.  I imagine many people out there, maybe including you, friend, aren't aware of this.

There was no leeway when talking with the A T & T service rep.  She didn't have any sympathy for me, and frankly didn't care that I was technologically ignorant.  I was out.  See ya, A T & T!  I hate businesses that nickel and dime you.

I'm now with T-Mobile.  I only had 4 months left to pay for my iPhone 6 and T-Mobile has a deal right now where they'll pay your old phone for you (up to like $600) if you switch.  They also give you free Netflix!  I ordered the iPhone 8 over the phone with a very helpful service rep, and got under my wife's T-Mobile unlimited data plan.  The phone arrived in two days, and I was able to keep my phone number too.  We will be paying $180 total (this includes financing on the new iPhone 8).  I'm happy because I get to stream all my games worry free.  The numbers also made sense.  We were paying very close to this amount combined when I was with A T & T and Jessica with T-mobile.

Main Point:

If you are paying with a set amount of data with A T & T, turn off the "Cellular Data" function on your phone everywhere you have free WiFi!  Why use your own data?

Thanks for reading.  Until next time.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

5 Fall Equinox Savings Strategies

If you're not keeping note of planet Earth's revolution around the sun, then you wouldn't have noticed that yesterday, September 22nd, was the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox in the northern hemisphere.  Of course, if you remember your Earth science, then you'd also connect this to the opposite season beginning in the souther hemisphere, namely, spring.  Wherever you are, we had 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night yesterday.

Image result for fall equinox

Starting today, we in the north will begin to experience fewer hours of daylight, meaning, sunset and darkness creeping up even sooner.  Therefore, it's time we stop spending money like we're still in summer!  Below I've compiled some ideas that may save you a few bucks here and there, relating all of it to the start of the Fall season.

1.  Adjust your sprinkler timer.  Since they'll be progressively fewer minutes of daylight, your lawn and plants won't need as much water.  Take off a minute of watering this month, and another minute in October.

2.  Watch your car's tire pressure.  It's not as hot so your tire pressure while driving is going to be lower.  Lower tire pressure due to temperatures cooling results in your car using more gas as you drive around.  So make necessary adjustments in the coming months.

3.  NFL football is baaack!  DO NOT PAY to watch your team or all the games.  I know that some of you (men) like to buy the NFL Sunday Ticket and catch any game you want on Sunday.  But...did you know that you can livestream any game you want on Reddit?

4.  Put money aside for Black Friday starting today.  November 23rd is the day you can finally upgrade your phone, computer, tablet, or even television.  The savings will be there if you're a smart shopper, so put a little extra away starting at the end of this month.

5.  Buy your winter wear now in the Fall while prices are still marked for summer.  If you need a new jacket or sweater, go buy them now!

Alright, that's all I got.  If you have any Fall savings strategies or ideas, please comment below.  Thanks for reading!